Our central concerns are the exploration and representation of the individual in his or her historical environment.

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Mission Statement

Our central concerns are the exploration and representation of the individual in his or her historical environment. Our aim is to contribute to the understanding of the lives and activities of individuals and groups in their eras. Our work adheres to the simple premise that it is individuals, and the social groups which individuals form, that make up societies. Thus, we seek to illuminate the historical destinies of individuals and the possibilities and development of those destinies in the times through which they lived. At the same time, we focus on the historical relationship between the individual and his or her community. Using appropriate methodology, we aim to capture that relationship in its concrete manifestations. To this end, we collect, sift through, and tap into a wide range of source material. The investigation of individuals leads to a focus on historical leaders as well as on different social communities: families, fraternities, professional associations, and denominational groups. We ask about the personal composition of those groups, their incorporation into supra-personal contexts, and their typological characteristics. Our resources and fields of work cover European and especially German-speaking areas. The focus of our research interest is the period from the late Middle Ages to the present. We want to uncover the breaks and continuities that characterise the perception of personal lives and the development of groups over the centuries.


The Institut für Personengeschichte in Bensheim is a historical scientific research institute that is run by a private foundation – the Stiftung für Personengeschichte – which was founded specially to perform this charitable task. The Institute carries out its research through its own projects, as well as through the wide range of collaborations it pursues with related public and private partner institutions in the fields of prosopography, biography, and genealogy. Its integration into the scientific community, as well as its responsiveness to the interested public, is served by its own publications, the organisation of symposia and workshops, and a research prize, which is awarded every two years in a public ceremony. At the same time, the Institute collects and curates papers and bequests, consisting of archival and other research documents relating to individuals, families, companies, and other groups or institutions. It supports scientific work and research projects, helps to compile collected works, chronicles, and family and company histories. Also, as a service provider, the Institute always endeavours to answer inquiries about its resources and research interests.

Staff Members

Former Staff

Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of the Foundation

The Institute is sponsored by the Stiftung für Personengeschichte.


Members of the Board of Trustees

  • Prof. Dr. Kay Windthorst, Bayreuth (Chairman)
  • Jon Baumhauer, Munich
  • Stephanie Keßner, Wiesbaden
  • Christine Klein, Bensheim (Mayoress)
  • Dr. Johannes Graf von Schmettow, Düsseldorf
  • Niklas Freiherr von Schrenck und Notzing, Charlottesville
  • Prof. Dr. Armin Wolf, Frankfurt am Main (Förderkreis/Supporting Group)

Executive Committee Members

  • Christoph Bachmann, Basel
  • Univ.-Doz. Dr. William D. Godsey, Vienna

Scientific Advisory Board

Supporting Group of the Stiftung für Personengeschichte

Members of the Board of Directors

  • Prof. Dr. Otto Volk, Marburg (Chairman)
  • Dr. Lupold v. Lehsten, Bensheim (Deputy Chairman)
  • Dirk Weissleder, Laatzen (Treasurer)
  • Prof. Dr. Armin Wolf, Frankfurt am Main (Member of the Board of Trustees)